If you are like us -- mere humans who only want to be loved -- beware of what you're about to read: A new study will likely make you question every friendship you've ever had.
Researchers from Tel Aviv University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology found as many as half of the people we consider friends may not think of us in the same way. The results, which were recently published in the journal PLoS One, suggest that we may be bad at recognizing who considers us part of their inner circle.
Researchers surveyed a class of 84 college students and asked them to rank every student in the class on a scale of zero ("we're strangers") to five ("this person is one of my best friends"). They then had to guess where other students ranked them.
The findings revealed that while 94 percent of the students thought their friendships would be reciprocated, only 53 percent actually were.
"If you think someone is your friend, you expect him to feel the same way," study co-author Erez Shmueli said in a statement. "But in fact that's not the case."
While the classroom provided only a small sample size, the researchers compared their results with six existing surveys on friendship that produced similar results. Overall, the highest rate of reciprocal friendships was 53 percent, while the lowest rate around 34 percent.
"These findings suggest a profound inability of people to perceive friendship reciprocity, perhaps because the possibility of non-reciprocal friendship challenges one-self image," the authors wrote. (Um, ouch.)
But the friendship fail doesn't end there. The study authors believed that reciprocal relationships also may affect social pressures and human behavior.
To test this theory, the researchers took their data one step further by creating a friendship algorithm that predicted one-sided vs. mutual friendships. They then applied it to a real-life social setting -- working out -- to see if the type of friendship could predict influence on whether or not a person exercised.
Researchers found that "those pressured by reciprocal friends exercised more and enjoyed greater progress than those with unilateral friendship ties."
Social influence -- and a person's subsequent action -- is only as strong as the friendships behind them, the findings suggest.
In other words, it's worth finding out who your "real" squad is. You know, the ones who consider you a friend as equally as you do for them.